Faith and Family Since 1925

Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Encore: Argentine martyrs' road to beatification recalls period of military rule

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Agren

By David Agren

LA RIOJA, Argentina (CNS) -- Bishop Enrique Angelelli Carletti traveled to a rural corner of his diocese in July 1973 to celebrate the feast of San Antonio. He was run out of town instead.

A mob organized by wealthy landowners pelted him with stones. It was their response to his promotion of worker cooperatives at a time when such concepts were criticized as communist, and anything emphasizing the "social" was seen as subversive.

Bishop Angelelli's pastoral approach was inspired by the Second Vatican Council and Young Christian Workers Movement, but the resistance became more brazen in the ensuing years. He was murdered in a mysterious car crash in July 1976 -- a crime carried out by the then-ruling military dictatorship.

The bishop's murder followed the slayings of two priests -- Conventual Franciscan Father Gabriel Longueville and Father Carlos de Dios Murias -- and Wenceslao Pedernera, a pastoral worker.

The four churchmen are collectively known as the Martyrs of La Rioja. They will be beatified April 27 at a ceremony in La Rioja, 700 miles northwest of Buenos Aires in the arid Andean foothills.

Their road to beatification recalls the troubled period of military rule and church acquiescence as abuses occurred. But it also vindicates a pastoral approach since championed by Pope Francis, who, while Jesuit provincial, befriended Bishop Angelelli.

The La Rioja martyrs "are the first victims of the military dictatorship to be declared martyrs by the church," said Mariano de Vedia, author of a biography on Bishop Angelelli. "It's a gesture showing Francis' commitment to the church that's close to the poor."

The beatifications have been greeted with muted enthusiasm in La Rioja and Argentina, however. Many locals in La Rioja still know little of the martyrs' legacy, let alone their names.

Such is the controversy still clinging to Bishop Angelelli's legacy and the country's difficulties confronting the atrocities of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship, which some in the church hierarchy supported and many more did not actively oppose.

"Argentina is a country looking more at the past than to the future and more open to controversies than agreements," said Jose Maria Poirier, publisher of the Catholic magazine Criterio.

"He is considered a socially minded bishop, very concerned with people's issues, very critical of the military dictatorship and, with few exceptions, the Argentina episcopate didn't defend him," said Poirier.

Bishop Angelelli was born in Cordoba, 250 miles southeast of La Rioja, in 1923. He entered the minor seminary at age 15, studied in Rome and was elevated to bishop by St. John XXIII in 1960.

He participated in the sessions of the Second Vatican Council and the 1968 Latin American bishops' council meeting in Medellin, Colombia, where the bishops proposed "a preferential option for the poor," a principle unpopular with Argentina's hierarchy, according to observers.

After Vatican II, the bishop returned to Cordoba, where he was an auxiliary, to implement new pastoral approaches, though his archbishop was not on board.

Bishop Angelelli "understood the Vatican II and its challenges," said Delfor Brizuela, a former priest and current human rights director in La Rioja's provincial government. "But he didn't really fulfill a bishop's role" in Cordoba, where "they sent him to a parish like any other priest, but (as) a bishop."

The bishop was appointed to La Rioja in 1968. He was sent there "as if it were the end of the world," Brizuela said, as the province was one of the poorest and least influential in Argentina, while social conditions were "semi-feudal." But he embraced the appointment and saw it as an opportunity to put the preferential option for the poor into practice.

Some of the changes were symbolic: He removed the names of the wealthy from the pews they reserved for themselves in the cathedral, where many poor Catholics preferred not to attend. He embraced popular piety, celebrated Christmas Eve Mass in poor pueblos and did not mind churchgoers not wearing their Sunday best.

Bishop Angelelli criticized injustices, but also promoted ministries for young people and for improving women's equality in a bastion of machismo, said Sister Maricarmen Paruas, who worked with the late bishop.

"He valued women and valued women religious," Sister Maricarmen said. "As women, as religious, he gave us opportunities to work in his pastoral projects as equals."

His pastoral approach attracted priests and religious wanting to put Vatican II into practice. Sister Maricarmen, 87, arrived in La Rioja from Spain in 1970 with the Religious of the Assumption congregation.

"When we came here, we saw the possibility of living a different church with a different bishop. We saw the prospect of working in barrios, in the midst of the people, and we stayed," she said.

"We established a presence of walking together, of listening and learning," she added. "We learned a lot from the people. He learned a lot from the people. He told us, 'Listen a lot before speaking. Drink lots of mate,'" an infusion popular in Argentina.

Though denounced as communist by the gentry and attacked mercilessly in the press, Bishop Angelelli "received the rich, the same as the poor," and "was able to forgive his worst enemy," Sister Maricarmen said.

Many of the bishop's conflicts with the wealthy stemmed from his promotion of worker-run co-ops.

Rafael Sifre, a collaborator in the rural movement supported by Bishop Angelelli, recalls an attempt to form a co-op to work the land of a vineyard owner, who had died. But resistance from local landowners was ferocious, to the point Sifre was kidnapped three times and the bishop was pelted with stones and accused of storing explosives in the local parish, he said.

Pedernera worked in the cellar of winery in Mendoza province, but moved to La Rioja to join Bishop Angelelli's rural movement. He also tried to form a co-op -- The Lucky Star to grow crops such as melons, tomatoes and peppers -- but also encountered resistance from landowners and the military dictatorship.

Susana Pedernera, one of his three daughters, recalls constant harassment and espionage -- to the point vehicles, driven by spies dressed as women, would pass by the family's farm. Wenceslao Pedernera was a catechist in the local parish and would "read a page from the Gospel after work," his daughter recalled.

But when he read the Bible, "People distanced themselves" and called him "communist" and "extremist," she said. "That's when problems started."

On the night of July 24, 1976, gendarmes pulled Wenceslao Pedernera from his home, at gunpoint, and beat him badly. He died of his injuries.

Six days earlier, Fathers Longueville and Dios Murias also were taken violently as they ate supper with a congregation of women religious. Their bodies were found beaten by railway workers.

"They tried to silence the bishop by killing those close to him," said Sifre, who was sent to Europe for his own safety. "He was persecuted for a church that tried to live the Gospel."

Few in the Argentine bishops' conference backed Bishop Angelelli. The Jesuits -- whose Argentine provincial was then-Father Jorge Mario Bergoglio -- held a retreat in La Rioja and, when the seminarians were sent away to study for their safety, the Jesuits welcomed them at their school in suburban Buenos Aires.

On Aug. 4, 1976, Bishop Angelelli was returning to La Rioja after celebrating a novena as part of the funerals for Pedernera and the two priests. His vehicle was run off the road by assassins in what was supposed to look like an accident. In 2014, two military commanders were found criminally responsible for his death.

Sister Maricarmen recalls Bishop Angelelli telling her on the eve of his murder, "They're closing in." She urged him to leave, but he refused.

"My place is here alongside my people," he said. "How can I leave my flock without a shepherd?"

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

They Hate You. They Really Hate You.

From Instapundit:   Posted at 6:54 pm by Glenn Reynolds   BALDILOCKS IS NOT IMPRESSED WITH THE “OTHERING” THAT’S GOING ON IN THE MEDIA: So only the “far right” cares when brown people are killed in church? Here’s the thing.… Continue Reading

Update: Sri Lankan attacks are the latest in series of Easter-related incidents

IMAGE: CNS photo/Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters

By

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) -- At least 290 people were killed and more than 500 injured in Easter attacks on three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka. The bombings were the latest in a string of Easter season bombings by extremists.

The others:

April 2, 2018: Four people were shot dead in an attack targeting Christians in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta on Easter Monday.

April 9, 2017: Bombings at two Coptic Orthodox churches in Egypt on Palm Sunday saw 45 people killed.

March 27, 2016: 75 people died and more than 300 were injured after bombs exploded in a park in a Christian neighborhood of Lahore, Pakistan, as people celebrated following Easter services; the Taliban claimed responsibility.

April 2, 2015: Christian students were targeted as the University of Garissa, Kenya, was attacked on Holy Thursday; 148 people died.

April 8, 2012: A suicide car bombing at Easter church services in the Nigerian city of Kaduna killed at least 38 people; the Islamist group Boko Haram claimed credit.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Church, agency, union leaders on fact-finding trip to Central America

IMAGE: CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

By Christie L. Chicoine

NEW YORK (CNS) -- A delegation that includes the head of Catholic Charities of the New York Archdiocese, union leaders, state officials and representatives of humanitarian aid agencies are visiting the three Central American nations that now face a cutoff of U.S. aid ordered by President Donald Trump.

During the April 22-26 fact-finding trip, the delegation planned to assess conditions in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador that have sparked years of migration northward to the U.S.

Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of the New York Archdiocese, told reporters during a news conference April 11 at the agency's Community Services - Immigration Legal Center in lower Manhattan that the delegation wanted to better understand the on-the-ground conditions people face daily in the Northern Triangle countries.

Joining Msgr. Sullivan on the fact-finding mission were New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, other Catholic Charities representatives and officials from Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.

Briefing participants fielded questions related to immigration and border issues, unaccompanied minors and the impact of U.S. policies on families at the border and in New York.

"We are very, very pleased that so many of our Catholic Charities partners are here today," Msgr. Sullivan said, "because when we are at our best as a country, and as a city and as a state, we don't do things alone. We do them in partnership with those of goodwill who want to make our city, our state, our nation, a more compassionate, a more fair place."

Msgr. Sullivan acknowledged the concern and care New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has "for immigrants, particularly unaccompanied minors," throughout the years, "but especially last summer when we had the crisis of separated children."

The number of those who continue to come to the United States is increasing, Msgr. Sullivan said. "The partners that we have in New York City and New York state, although stretched, continue to provide compassionate, high quality care," through housing, social and legal services, and counseling.

"Today," Msgr. Sullivan said, "we want to say that as New Yorkers, that we continue to be the city that welcomes and ... encourages newcomers because we're stronger when we welcome and we open our doors to them."

Cardinal Dolan attended the news briefing along with David Hansell, New York City commissioner of the Administration for Children Services, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other legal and social service providers.

in response to a reporter's question about whether there is a limit to how many people can come into the country, cited some compelling statistics, Msgr. Sullivan said the archdiocese believes in secure borders as well as "a generous, legal, immigration policy."

"We also believe that there is a need for people to earn a way to remedy a situation that they may have gotten themselves into," he said.

Msgr. Sullivan said in traveling clinics Catholic Charities conducts throughout the New York metropolitan area, staffers see about 100 immigrants on a given day "who don't have the right documents. At the end of the day, 25 of those 100 really just were unaware that they could have the right documents."

He also shared a table listing the population densities of 225 countries. "The United States, on that list, is 175th from the top of dense countries," he said.

DiNapoli anticipated the trip would yield information "from the ground" to share with policymakers in New York state as well as some national leaders.

Cardinal Dolan said that for more than a century Catholic Charities has welcomed, helped and encouraged immigrants and refugees.

"We're going to keep doing it, but we can't do it by ourselves," the cardinal said. "And that's why the wisdom of a morning like this shows me the magnificent choreography of all the different partnerships that we have. So I thank our partners. Do we ever need you and do we ever appreciate you."

Bitta Mostofi, commissioner of the city's Office of Immigrant Affairs, said the "false narrative of people just coming here for no reason, or that they're not children, or that they're not fleeing extreme violence, is just that -- it's false."

"And it's each and every one of our jobs," she said, "to ensure that we're telling the truth about why people are coming, that we're telling the truth about what it means if we leave people behind."

Appelbaum, the union president, said the trip to the Central American nations could not have come at a more appropriate time. "We are leaving the day after Easter, which is also the middle of Passover.

"Passover was the story of a migration of people from their homes leaving in desperation. What happened so long ago should resonate with all of us in terms of what is happening today," he added.

To be true "to our faiths" and "to our city," Appelbaum said, "we have to be speaking out at this time."

- - -

Chicoine is news editor of Catholic New York newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

'Controlled explosion' near St. Anthony's church as Sri Lanka remains on high alert

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Apr 22, 2019 / 08:03 am (CNA).- Police in Sri Lanka have detonated a suspicious package near St. Anthony’s church in Colombo on Easter Monday.

Local media reported scenes of panic and confusion April 22, as crowds fled the area after what has been described as a “small explosion.” Local police later confirmed the blast was the controlled destruction of a suspect item found in a nearby van.

The controlled detonation was carried out but local authorities at approximately 3:30pm local time Monday afternoon. It took place in the immediate area of St. Anthony’s Catholic church and national shrine, which was at the center of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks.

 

 

Small explosion outside St Anthony’s church right now. People fleeing the scene pic.twitter.com/GjadgTwoZ5

— michael safi (@safimichael) April 22, 2019  



 

The controlled explosion follows the defusing of what the Times of London called a "large pipe bomb" near Colombo airport overnight, and authorities remain on high alert over the possibility of further attacks.

According to some reports, as many as 24 arrests have been made, and investigations are ongoing.

The Easter attacks, which have claimed more than 290 lives and injured a further 500, targeted several churches including St. Anthony’s, as well as three hotels, a zoo, and a private residence.

World leaders have offered statements of condolence and solidarity to the island nation as government officials have appealed for unity in the face of the terrorist action.

Details of the attacks have continued to emerge, with police confirming that several of the explosions were the result of suicide bombers.

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the coordinated series of attacks, Sri Lankan prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe indicated on Monday that local intelligence and security services had been circulating warnings of an impending attack on churches 10 days before Easter.

Senior police officers have been reported saying the warnings referred to the domestic Islamic terror group National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

Wickremesinghe said this information was not shared with him or his cabinet, and that he was investigating why additional precautions did not appear to have been taken. The prime minister also said that the immediate priority was to arrest those responsible.

While the prime minister confirmed that “so far the names that have come up [as suspects] are local”, cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said on Monday that the government was considering the role of overseas terrorist groups.

“We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country. There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded,” Senaratne said.

Concerns have previously been raised in Sri Lanka about a potential spike in terrorist violence following the return of Islamist radicals to the country in the aftermath of the collapse of Islamic State.

As security services and police continue their investigations, Pope Francis renewed his prayers for the victims and appealed for international support.

Speaking from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace on Monday, the pope condemned the “inhuman” terrorist attacks shortly before leading the Regina Coeli prayers.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary,” the pope said.

I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable.”

Porn restrictions further delayed in UK, now scheduled for July launch

London, England, Apr 22, 2019 / 06:34 am (CNA).- The United Kingdom has once again delayed the launch of its constraints on virtual porn. The online age verification program is now scheduled to launch mid-summer.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order for the Digital Economy Act in 2017 as a means to curb pornography access by those under 18.

After two years of development and numerous delays, the program is now scheduled to be released on July 15. A few parts of the program have been updated since the project was originally expected to launch on April 1.

To view online pornography, internet users will need to confirm their age by entering information from a driver’s license, credit card, or passport. If users do not wish to input their personal information, they may purchase a special ID card, available at thousands of retail shops across the nation for under £10.

For a website to be monitored, more than a third of the site must be dedicated to pornography, ruling out platforms such as Twitter and Reddit, which are known to have small pockets of pornography. Non-commercial pornographic sites will also be exempt.
Government officials say they hope social media companies will make an effort to protect children from encountering pornographic material.

“We know that pornography is available on some social media platforms and we expect those platforms to do a lot more to create a safer environment for children,” a Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sport spokesman told the BBC.

“If we do not see action then we do not rule out legislating in the future to force companies to take responsibility for protecting vulnerable users from the potentially harmful content that they host,” the spokesman said.

Originally, websites that failed to follow the age verification rules were expected to face a nearly $330,000 fine, but this will not be enforced because of the difficulty enforcing payment from porn companies overseas. Rather, the government said a threat to block noncompliant websites should be sufficient to ensure conformity, the BBC reported.

In March, Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth and creator of the new 21-day porn detox STRIVE, voiced support for increased restrictions surrounding pornography.

“If it’s something as simple as age verification, I’m all for it,” he told CNA. “It just sounds like we are expecting the same thing of people online that we already expect of them offline.”

Among the available age verification services is AgeID, built by MindGeek, which operates and owns several common pornographic sites.

Some critics of the new UK policy say it violates the privacy of pornography users.

“Data leaks could be disastrous. And they will be the government's own fault,” said Jim Killock from the Open Rights Group, according to the BBC.

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the age verification is a valuable first step, but that other measures need to be taken alongside it.

“The NSPCC is calling for social networks to be required by law to give under-18s safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world,” read a statement from the organization, according to BirminghamLive.

Children’s access to online pornography has been identified as a significant problem: A 2016 study by internet security company Bitdefender found that about 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites is under age 10.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that works to educate on the harmful effects of pornography, has highlighted numerous studies showing the negative impact of pornography on underage users, including the creation of addictions, changes in sexual taste, and physical impact on the brain.

“Just more broadly, I would say pornography perverts a child’s understanding of human intimacy and sexual life, which is a very beautiful thing,” Fradd stressed.

“It’s as pernicious as sex is beautiful and human intimacy is worthwhile. Since those two things are beautiful and worthwhile, the corruption of it [in regards to] a child is all together something despicable and horrid.”
 

Pope Francis: The resurrection is the most shocking event in human history

Vatican City, Apr 22, 2019 / 05:05 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Monday that the resurrection of Christ is the most shocking event in human history.

“What was humanly unthinkable happened,” Pope Francis said April 22. “‘Christ, my hope, is risen!’ And in Him we too are resurrected, passing from death to life, from the slavery of sin to the freedom of love.”

The pope spoke from the window of the Vatican Apostolic Palace before leading those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the traditional Easter prayer, the Regina Coeli.

“After the rites of the Easter Triduum, which made us relive the mystery of death and resurrection of our Lord, now with the eyes of faith we contemplate him risen and alive,” he said.

Pope Francis said “the risen Jesus walks beside us. He manifests himself to those who invoke and love him. First of all in prayer, but also in simple joys lived with faith and gratitude.”

The pope pointed to the important role that women played in announcing Christ’s resurrection.

“It is women who are the first to meet the Risen One and bring the announcement that he is alive,” Pope Francis said.

“All the Gospels highlight the role of women, Mary Magdalene and the others, as the first witnesses of the resurrection,” he said.

Pope Francis said that the words Jesus addressed to the women must also resound in our lives today, “Do not be afraid; go and announce …”

“We ask the Virgin Mary to allow us to receive full peace and serenity, gifts from the Risen One, to share with our brothers, especially those who need comfort and hope the most,” Pope Francis said.

“Let us allow ourselves, therefore, to reach out from the consoling message of Easter and wrap ourselves in its glorious light, which dissipates the darkness of fear and sadness,” he said.

The pope again expressed his spiritual closeness with the people of Sri Lanka, where explosions in Catholic churches killed more than 200 people on Easter morning.

Pope Francis condemned the acts of terrorism and said that the Sri Lankan people continue to be in his prayers.

“I pray for the many victims and wounded, and I ask everyone not to hesitate to offer this dear nation all the help that is necessary. I also hope that everyone condemns these acts of terrorism, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” Pope Francis said.

Why Blessed is She's founder says she's blessed

Denver, Colo., Apr 22, 2019 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Jenna Guizar grew up without any sisters.

But these days, Guizar relishes having a "sisterhood" of digital and physical communities of Catholic women around the world.

Guizar presides over a growing international women’s ministry, Blessed is She, which will mark its fifth year in September. The ministry began as a web-based devotional for Catholic women based on the day’s Mass readings.

“I loved what some of the Protestant women’s ministries were doing with Scripture study, inviting women to spend time daily in the Word. I wanted that for Catholic women, too,” Guizar, 35 and the mother of four daughters, explained.

“I saw an opening for this kind of content for women, and a hunger in the Church. I was hungry for it, too, and I didn’t see it happening in the Church, but I never thought of going elsewhere, I wanted to be fed in the Catholic Church.”

Now Guizar, along with a small staff and a national team of writers, whose contributions are vetted by theological editors, is feeding more than 60,000 women around the world with a daily email that delivers reflections on the Mass readings, along with a link to the readings themselves on the USCCB website.

On social media, tens of thousands follow along in regional Facebook groups, forming virtual communities that have morphed into hundreds of physical communities around the world.

On Blessed is She’s Instagram account, which has more than 100,000 followers, retreat director Beth Davis hosts a popular segment called ‘Teachable Tuesday,’ where she gives instruction different Catholic methods of prayer, wisdom from the lives of the saints, and deeper dives into Scripture.

Participants pop on at the beginning of the segment and announce their geographical locations: Ireland, Australia, Tanzania, Mexico, and the United States.

“Basically my whole adult life has been spent working for the Church,” says Davis, “but I’ve never experienced what we experience with these women every day, on retreats, on Instagram, in regional groups.

“There’s almost too much to choose from, she said, when asked for stories about her experience. “[We have] stories of women coming home to the Church, of becoming Catholic, of encountering Jesus for the first time in spite of years of knowing Him on an intellectual level.”

“What makes Blessed is She different is that it’s not about one person, there is no cult of personality. It’s all focused on Christ.” Davis explained, and Guizar agreed, when asked what she thought was driving the ministry’s growth.

“We’re just here walking alongside the women we serve, as women who are experiencing deeper conversion in their own lives,” added Guizar, explaining that she doesn’t see herself as doing anything extraordinary, apart from being available and willing to answer a need to which she herself felt drawn.

“My own personal, daily conversions happen in large part because of Blessed is She. I feel a great responsibility and honor to be given this ministry by the Lord. I feel a great responsibility to draw closer and closer to Him so that I can be the leader and woman He wants me to be,” Guizar said.

Guizar recalls one of the first times she realized Blessed is She might become something bigger than she’d envisioned:

“It was getting close to Advent during our first year, and I thought I’d like to make a little prayer journal and offer it to our subscribers. I had no idea whether it would sell, I just created it in a computer program and self-printed them. But we ended up with more than 800 presales. That’s probably the first time I started to realize this was going to be a lot bigger than me.”

Both Guizar and Davis said that working for the ministry has deepened their spiritual lives.
“I get to come to work every day with someone who prays with me, asks me about my prayer life, who really lives an example of personal holiness,” said Guizar of Davis, “it’s so good for me.”

She continued, “My spiritual life has changed dramatically through the discipline of prayer. I feel drawn to live a life of integrity. If I'm asking a woman to do something in her life, I better be doing it as well... like I have to be living this out in order to talk about it.”

Guizar recounts growing up in a dynamic youth group in the Diocese of Phoenix: “After youth group there was nothing to fill that void of community in my life as an adult. We had good friends and we had a good parish, but we didn’t feel like we were growing in our faith, and we didn’t feel like our relationships were really rooted in Christ.”

“I needed this community for my own conversion” Guizar said.

She recalls feeling a growing sense of isolation as a young mother, struggling to find her place in the Church.

“I wasn’t homeschooling my kids or doing liturgical crafts. I was fascinated by that experience when I read about it, but it wasn’t my life. I felt like I had more questions than answers. I didn’t have any wisdom or experience to offer.”

That’s when Guizar conceived of a daily Bible devotional modelled after some of the Protestant women’s ministries she admired. “I knew of all these Catholic bloggers, women with a deeper knowledge of Scripture and with more formation than me, so I reached out and invited them to contribute.”

That was back in the fall of 2014. The first Blessed is She devotion went out on September 1, 2014. By the end of the year, more than 200 women had signed up to receive the emails. By 2015, that number had increased to more than 2,000 women. And by early 2019, that number had risen to more than 60,000.

50% of Blessed is She participants are millennials - or younger - falling between the ages of 18 and 35. Women between 36 and 65 make up another 35% of the demographic.

Blessed is She brunches and retreats now make up a significant portion of the ministry’s focus, with more than 400 member-hosted brunches logged in 2018. So far in 2019, more than 500 women have attended a Blessed is She retreat somewhere in the US or abroad. Still to come this calendar year: retreats in Nashville, Texas, and Ireland.

If you ask for stories of how Blessed is She is impacting women’s lives, the answers come back to a common theme: community.

Oliva Spears, a Blessed is She writer who manages the site’s blog content recounts “dozens of messages” from women who are coming back to the Church through their involvement with Blessed is She:

“Faithful Catholic women who are lacking community in real life and who’ve felt like they’re the only Catholic left on the planet” are finding out they’re not alone, and being encouraged by other women who are following Christ.

Nell O’Leary, Blessed is She’s managing editor, remarks on the community built in the regional Facebook groups that becomes “real, in-the-flesh friendship.”

O’Leary said, “One older woman had prayed specifically for a young mom who was moving to her city to find the perfect house. When those two met at my Blessed Conversations group, they embraced like old friends. The bonds of sisterhood transcended age, location, and even the internet."

Bonnie Engstrom, another contributing writer, told the story of re-watching an old ‘Teachable Tuesday’ recording on Instagram with her small group in her parish:

“Beth talked about how God’s not finished until He is finished. She specifically said that to older moms whose children have left the Church and there were so many grandma’s present who felt so reassured by that. These are women who are in church every day, praying for their children. They felt heard by God through Beth’s words.”

Guizar touched on the theme of community repeatedly in an interview with CNA, emphasizing its significance to the heart of the ministry.

“I want women to know that the Lord loves them right where they’re at, and that He wants to bring restoration and healing, that He will bring it.”

When asked about how her four young children fit into the mission, Guizar acknowledged the tension between being open to life and leading an international ministry,

“Mike [my husband] is great about it, he is always saying, ‘If the Lord wants it right now, it’s going to happen.’ We don’t shy away from having more kids, because we want more kids to know the Lord, to live as missionaries in a secular culture.”

Guizar says she doesn’t have a plan for Blessed is She, but is just trying to be faithful.

“The Lord gave me Blessed is She to save my soul every day,” she said. “I really believe it was as much for me as for the women who we serve.”

“I have no idea where Blessed is She will be in five years. I had dreams at the beginning that I think have evolved now, into an acknowledgement that even if I had a plan, He would surprise me anyway. So I'm just along for the ride.”

 

 

Editor's note: In addition to her work at CNA, Jenny Uebbing is a periodic freelance contributor to Blessed is She.

 

Socialism and Facts: A Continuing Series

I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism. Therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy. The… Continue Reading

April 22, 1775: Report to General Gage

By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard ’round the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson     Thus are turning points in history reported… Continue Reading